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A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

nj, usa
3 posts
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A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

So we have a week - leaving Good Friday, staying in Antigua 2 days, hitting the lake for 2 or 3(different towns) then Xela and maybe san Marcos. . What do you think? Going with my girlfriend. My goals are to see amazing nature, relax for a bit(maybe beach, read, drink wine/beer while chillin), be active for a bit: hike(possibly overnight one night on a volcano-see the sun rise- any tours group sugggestions?), maybe white water raft, kayak, atv. .place on Lake Atitlan i've heard of(thanks frommers): Pana, touristy but major hub; can get whatever I need from here, San Pedro- party/ hippy area, drugs and partying and language schools, Santiago de atitlan- didn't describe much-doesn't seem appealing and San Marcos La Laguna and Santa Cruz La Laguna - known for yoga, sounded very beautiful.

Any suggestions.. looking to spend less than $100 per night which I know is very doable.. looking for friendly people to interact with.. things to see.. things to do.. stuff to experience that is different.. Knock my socks off you Guata experts!!!!!!!

USA
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1. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

I wish they would permanently post your question as an example of how to ask total strangers something. You have provided interests, time and budget. Great, too many of these "I'm going to Guatemala what should I do?" I do have one sorta question. I presume you have reserved your hotel in Antigua many moons ago. I would suggest that you reconfirm now and again about 5-7 days before you leave. Don't leave town on Sunday. Major to dos. As to the volcano overnight... There are loads of agencies in Antigua that can set you up based on your level of physical fitness. As a newbie I bet you will toss out a bunch of your plans once you get here and see the really cool stuff to do. You might consider just a day trip up Pacaya. Maybe 90% of volcano travelers do. Beach... Monterrico is the nearest. But certainly not the greatest of beaches. Going to be better than NJ. No one goes to Guat. with beach on their top ten list. One thing not on your list is Tikal. I've been to most of the major pre-Colombian sites in the western hemisphere and I'd rate Tikal tops for the average tourist/ non-anthropologist. Minimum time would be an overnighter. You fly out very early,. Maybe reserve a hotel in the park. Grab ashuttle at the airport and spend the afternoon doing the tourist circuit. Fly back the next late morning. You will see a lot of major sturctures, great vegetation and scads of monkeys and birds. Antigua at Easter and Tikal anytime are two world class events. Not visiting Tikal is like going to Egypt and skipping the pyramids. Your description of Lake Atitlan is dead on. I'm amazed that Frommers got something correct that didn't involve all inclusives and buffets. Where you stay is literally how you prioritize. My favorite is Pana. Always has been. My first trip to Guat. was late 70s and I've been back to work and visit a gazzillion times since. Pana is the easiest to center in. All boats leave from Pana so you can easily get anywhere. My absolute favorite hotel is Mario's Rooms on Calle Santander. Last Oct. I paid $12. Beautiful room. All the bathrooms are newly tiled. Small courtyard is so overgrown with flowers that you will think you need a machete. The flowers cause the place to be filled with butterflies and hummingbirds. The place is always filled with a crew of teenage Mayan maids who spend the day scrubbing anything that doesn't move. If you lay around in a hammock keep your feet up or you will have shiny toenails. When I first stayed there they had 3 rooms and the owners daughter played with her ball in the courtyard. Today that little girl has streaks of grey and runs the place. The grandchildren of the original maids are on the cleaning crew. And the number of rooms has grown. I hope to arrange another shopping trip in May. San Marcos and Santa Cruz are both very laid back. The really freaky new age crystal wavers tend ot hit San Marcos. Santiago Atitlan has a nice hotel a bit out of town. Not appropriate for your stay. Santiago does have some claims to fame. It is the home to Maximon, a Mayan God who has Christian connections. You need to know stuff before going to see him. During Mayan post classic times and continuing up until now, Santiago, Soloa and San Cristobal were key points on a major Mayan trade route. Heard about all the 2012 stuff. Not only did the Mayans have the only calendar with an end date they also had an end point. It's in Santiago. Visit the church. Notice the unique altar. Listen to the guides say where the point is. WRONG. But close. Part of Father Rother is buried in the church. A future Catholic saint. if you get excited about naif painting, Santiago was the birth place of the art. Acutally invented by a Mayan who spilled some paint while building furniture. Not all the artists live there but most of the best works are sold there either from the artist's gallery or that of a family member. Your trip is so short. As far as I'm concerned Xela would be around #267 on my list of things to do in Guat. It is surrounded by very traditional villages that each have a neat market day. The town itself seems to have been painted grey from all the diesel exhaust of the bus fleet. BTW... just read.. in case you go you be happy to learn that at the beginning of this month the public transport system had the first ever safety inspection in it's history. There is a bar that Che used to hang out in. But all in all that 2 days would be better spent in Tikal.

Edmonton, Canada
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2. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

What he said.

Tikal - don't miss it! Be there when the sun goes down, and again when it comes back up. Set your alarm really early, it's worth it. It's a four-dimensional, all-senses experience.

Lake Atitlan
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for Lake Atitlan
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3. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

I wont try to top the previous post, but will add my small bit. Beyond the stuff in the guide books and the villages, the pure natural beauty of Lake Atitlan will take your breath away. Try to spend as much time as possible out on the trails or on the water if you are into adventure and activity. Try hiking between the villages on the north shore or above the lake. Kayak to see the lake from an entirely different perspective.

Dont skip the hustle and bustle of the towns, but complement it with time in the wild outdoors. www.kayakguatemala.com

Bethesda, MD
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4. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

If I were going with a girlfriend, I'd be considering Lomas de Tzununa, Casa del Mundo, and Posada de Santiago, in that order. All should come in under $100/night without any problem.

Charlottesville
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5. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

The lake is amazing. I have been here for about two months. Pana to me is the worst of the towns on the lake. Santa Cruz is great for relaxing, San Marcos really is pretty nice, and even San Pedro is great. There is a lot of talk on these boards about drugs in San Pedro but I have been there about 30 times and the town is great, and nothing like people are saying on here. It is a great point to see everything on the lake. YOU CAN MISS PANA. Trust me. Santiago is much better if you want a larger town. My option is unbiased and from someone who is here with his wife for a few months.

DO NOT WALK BETWEEN TOWNS ON THE NORTH SHORE. I know two people in the short time I was here who were robbed going from San Marcos to Santa Cruz. The area is safe, but not on the trails between towns. DO NOT DO IT, it is not worth the risk to have your vacation ruined and for the rest of your life tell people that you were robbed in Guatemala. The people here are great, but it is a poor country. Other people on here will say that its safe and the odds are against being robbed, but is it worth the risk? I know 4 couples who have walked those trails, two have been robbed.

USA
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6. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

I have to disagree with kayak as to the trails. The one thing Rick does get right is the warning about the trails. The trails around the lake are just part of a much longer system of trails that date back hundreds of years. During Post Classic times this whole region developed a major trail network extending as far as Mexico to support trade. Remember.... in the really old days everything was carried on someone's back. During the war that trail system was used to smuggle in supplies from Mexico. I've used detailed maps of those trail systems. There are some really great points where you can sit in concealment and observe who is coming along. More importantly you can see if there is anyone else near them. People knew where teams would hang out. After the war the bad guys remembered those points. Couple of locals sit and wait for a couple gringos or gringas. Armed with machetes they come running down and most tourists are clueless as to what to do. There have been intermittent robberies and rapes for years. None ever lasts too long. The police have long been trained to be careful whose business they poke into. The ripped off gringo goes to the police. "What did he look like?" Short, stocky, large nose, black hair. Carried a machete. Wore rubber soled sandals. You have just described the cop's cousin... or his wife. These guys generally don't operate for long. A sudden accumulation of even minor wealth gets noticed. Or they make the mistake of robbing locals. In that case they get identified, and as we saw a few months back, some perps got doused with gas and torched. Have I walked the lake? Yeh... but I know stretches with lots of foot traffic. I also am sensible enough to ask what the current situation is like. Plus, I kinda drew up a bunch of those maps. I have a friend who used to hike. She would hire someone who was comparitively big and carried a machete to walk with her. If you wanna hike ask around. $10 a day would be double field work pay. Or go into one of the banks in Pana and hire one of the guards.

Toronto, Canada
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7. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

I agree with Don Craig about Lomas de Tzununa - we had 4 nights there and it was fabulous.

8. Re: A wk in Guatemala - little time..so much Lake..Advice please

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